By Doug Lorimer
[‘Transitional demands’, part of RSP Constitution and Program report, was given by Doug Lorimer to the March 2009 RSP National Committee. ‘Appendix: A ‘transitional program’ without ‘transitional demands’]
We have seen how the DSP leadership uses the phrases “transitional method” and “transitional demands” to justify the public presentation of left reformist politics as something that is consistent with its formally revolutionary socialist politics. The latest example is DSP NE member Simon Butler’s claim in the current edition of Green Left Weekly that “demanding that Australia’s capitalist government guarantee full employment” is “an important transitional demand that can open the road to even more radical developments”.2* In my opinion, such pseudo-Marxist centrism is given a certain “Marxist” authority by the notion, expressed in the 1994 DSP program, that there can actually be such a thing as a “transitional demand”.*
What is a “transitional demand”? According to the DSP program (and therefore our provisional program), “While supporting, and helping to lead, struggles for immediate reforms, the party rejects the reformist illusion that the fundamental problems facing the masses can be resolved by partial solutions, including those raised in transitional demands. The fundamental problems facing working people can be resolved only through the revolutionary seizure of power and reorganisation of the economy and society along socialist lines. The party places great importance on transitional demands because they relate to the immediate problems facing the masses while being objectively linked, in the conditions for their fulfillment, to these socialist goals.”
Furthermore, the program states: “In the course of mass struggles, the party advances demands that relate to the immediate problems facing working people but which challenge the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create, and which point to the need for working people to take political power into their own hands. Through the struggle for such transitional demands, the working class can develop its understanding of the need to overthrow capitalist rule and the means of doing so.”
Now a demand is a strong request for someone else to do something for you, for example, “We, the workers employed by General Motors-Holden, demand that you, the management of GMH, give us an immediate 5% wage rise.” A “transitional demand” would therefore be a strong request that the capitalist rulers introduce measures that “challenge the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create, and which point to the need for working people to take political power into their own hands”.
But why do demands for such measures “point to the need for working people to take political power into their own hands”? The program never clearly explains why, but it implies that “transitional demands” cannot be realised without the working people taking political power into their own hands, i.e., the basic condition for their realisation is the coming into being of a working people’s government. Thus the program states: “Workers' control [of capitalist-owned industry] thus constitutes a school for planned economy and a preparation for workers' self-management, which is possible only after the conquest of political power by the working class has opened the way for the expropriation of the key branches of capitalist production. Defence of working-class living and working conditions is thus inseparably connected with the struggle for a working people's government.”
Now, that is certainly true. But would getting masses of workers to campaign to demand that a capitalist government introduce measures that would be transitional to socialism if implemented by a working people’s government “point to the need for working people to take political power into their own hands”? Wouldn’t it simply foster in their minds the reformist delusion that their fundamental problems can be solved without them having to take political power into their own hands; i.e., that these problems can be solved by a capitalist government?
Let’s take the supposed “transitional demand” for workers’ control of production. Under the right conditions, revolutionary socialists agitate for workers to impose workers’ control of production under capitalist rule. Implementation by workers of such a measure would certainly pose a challenge to “the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create”. But workers control of production is a task we pose for the workers themselves to carry out, not something we demand individual capitalist employers or their government implement.
How would you formulate it as a demand to be implemented by a capitalist government? “We (workers) demand that the Rudd government pass a law through parliament that the Australian Electoral Commission organise the election of workers control committees in our workplaces”? Doesn’t this inescapably convey the idea that the Rudd government could, under the pressure of a mass campaign for this demand, attack “the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create”? Such an idea is a pseudo-socialist reformist delusion, betraying a complete lack of understanding of the bourgeois character of the ALP, the Rudd government, parliament and the Australian state bureaucracy. For “revolutionary socialists” to pretend that the Rudd government is capable of being pressured into attacking “the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create” is to shamelessly dupe working people.
Indeed, if consciously pursued as a method of attempting to mobilise the masses the very idea of “transitional demands”, i.e., requests for a capitalist government to implement measures transitional to socialism, involves propagating reformist delusions.
This was not Lenin’s method in uniting and mobilising the working people to struggle to take political power into their own hands in Russia in 1917. During the acute revolutionary situation in Russia in 1917, Lenin carried out propaganda for a program of measures to combat the impending famine in Russia, measures such as the nationalisation of the banks, abolition of commercial secrecy, the nationalisation of the capitalist marketing syndicates, and workers’ control of production, i.e., workers’ control over their capitalist employers. But he did not put these measures forward as “transitional demands”, i.e., as measures that working people should demand that individual capitalists or their Provisional Government implement. Rather he stressed over and over again that their realisation was only possible “if the state power were revolutionary not only in word (i.e., if it did not fear to do away with inertia and routine), if it were democratic not only in word (i.e., if it acted in the interests of the majority of the people and not of a handful of rich men)”.3 Furthermore, he argued that the implementation of such measures by a “revolutionary-democratic government”, by a working people’s government, would constitute “steps toward socialism”.
“These steps”, he wrote even before his return to Russia in April 1917, “are dictated, with absolute inevitability, by the conditions created by the war, which in many respects will become still more acute in the post-war period. In their entirety and in their development these steps will mark the transition to socialism, which cannot be achieved in Russia directly, at one stroke, without transitional measures, but is quite achievable and urgently necessary as a result of such transitional measures.” But the precondition for these measures to have such a transitional character was that political power be transferred from “the government of the landlords and capitalists” to a “government of the workers and poorest peasants” through the soviets taking all state power into their hands.4
The idea of “transitional measures” of course is contained in the Communist Manifesto. It argued that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”
It then noted that “Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.”
It then presented a list of 10 such measures which it argued were generally applicable in the most advanced countries, including nationalisation of the land, a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, nationalisation of the banks, “centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state”, “extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state” and “free education for all children in public schools”.
These were only conceived of as transitional measures, as “despotic inroads on the rights of [bourgeois] property and on the conditions of bourgeois production”, and “means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production” only because of the class character of the state power that would be implementing them, i.e., “the proletariat organised as the ruling class”. Implemented by a bourgeois state power, as nearly all of them were by the French bourgeois republic under the petty-bourgeois Jacobin revolutionary-democratic government of 1793-94, they did not have such a transitional character. In the latter case, these measures were means of temporarily mobilising the working masses of France to carry out a ruthless war of defence of the French bourgeois republic against feudal-monarchist ruled Europe.
In 1917 Lenin pointed out that the economic measures he advocated be implemented in Russia, such as state control over the banks, were being implemented in wartime Germany by the government of the capitalists and the big semi-feudal landowners. As a result they were simply “war-time state-monopoly capitalism, or, to put it more simply and clearly, war-time penal servitude for the workers and war-time protection for capitalist profits”. But when implemented by a “a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way” such state-monopoly capitalism, Lenin pointed out, “inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism” because “socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly”.5 Whether such measures were transitional to socialism or a reactionary-bureaucratic means of protecting capitalist profits depended on the class character of the government that implemented them.
In 1917 Lenin also put forward two central slogans to summarise the list of measures the Bolsheviks advocated be fought for by the workers and peasants: “Bread, peace and land!” and “All power to the soviets!” These were agitational (i.e., mobilising) slogans, not demands addressed to the capitalist Provisional Government. A slogan is a short, easily remembered phrase encapsulating an idea.
Transitional slogans and ‘transitional demands’
The confusion of “transitional demands” with such mobilising slogans seems to have been partly introduced into the Marxist movement at the Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921 and then generalised by Trotsky in his 1938 Transitional Program.
In his report on the resolution “On Tactics” to the Comintern’s Third Congress, Karl Radek, speaking for the Bolshevik-led Comintern executive committee, singled out two slogans that the Communist parties should conduct propaganda and mass agitation for. The first was “workers’ control of production”. He pointed out that “one must try to lead all struggles over wage rises, over working hours, against unemployment towards the intermediate aim of control over production, not towards the system of production, control effected by the government, by passing a law, which the proletariat has then to respect, that the worker does not steal, and the capitalist has to watch that the worker works. Control over production means education in proletarian struggle, all factory organisations to be subject to elections, their local and district-wide connection on the basis of industrial groups in the proletarian struggle.”
Radek named “the arming of the proletariat, the disarming of the bourgeoisie” as the second slogan, drawing the following general conclusion: “One could mention even more slogans of that type. I will not do so. They grow out of the practical struggle. What we say to you, give to you as a general slogan, as a general orientation is, not to counterpose yourselves to the proletariat in all the struggles, which the masses undertake, but to sharpen, to extend the struggles of the masses for their practical necessities, and to teach them to have greater necessities: the necessity to conquer power.”5
These two slogans, by their nature, were conceived of as conveying tasks to be accomplished by the working class in a revolutionary situation, not demands to be addressed to capitalist governments. If fought for by a mass revolutionary movement and partially realised, even before the working class had conquered political power, they would weaken capitalist rule in the workplaces and the bourgeois state power, and provide the workers with organisations capable of carrying out a revolutionary struggle for power – factory committees and a workers’ militia. The partial realisation of these measures against the resistance of the bourgeoisie, and the attempt to extend them, would pose the question of power in its full extent. They were thus “transitional slogans”, conveying the key tasks to be accomplished by the workers in making a transition from “struggles of the masses for their practical necessities” to the struggle for power.
However, in the resolution “On Tactics” adopted by the Third Congress7 the idea of such “transitional slogans” appears to be mixed up with the concept of “demands” to be addressed to the capitalists and their governments. The resolution stated: “All the agitation, propaganda and political work of the Communist Parties must start from the understanding that no long-term improvement in the position of the proletariat is possible under capitalism and that only the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the destruction of capitalist states will make possible the transformation of working-class living conditions and the reconstruction of the economy ruined by capitalism. This does not mean, however, that the proletariat has to renounce the fight for its immediate practical demands until after it has established its dictatorship.
“Even though capitalism is in progressive decline and is unable to guarantee the workers even a life of well-fed slavery, social democracy continues to put forward its old programme of peaceful reforms to be carried out on the basis and within the framework of the bankrupt capitalist system. This is a deliberate deception of the working masses. Although it is evident that capitalism in its present stage of decline is incapable of guaranteeing workers a decent human existence, the social democrats and reformists everywhere are daily demonstrating their unwillingness and inability to fight even for the most modest demands in their programme. The demand advanced by the centrist parties for the socialisation or nationalisation of the most important branches of industry is equally a deception because it is not linked to a demand for victory over the bourgeoisie. The centrists want to divert the workers from the real, vital struggle for their immediate goals by holding out the hope that industrial forms can be taken over gradually, one by one, and that ‘systematic’ economic construction can then begin. The social democrats are thus retreating to their minimum programme, which now stands clearly revealed as a counter-revolutionary fraud.”
While this makes a generally correct criticism of the approach of the reformists and centrists, it is marred by a confusing formulation. What is “a demand for victory over the bourgeoisie”?
The resolution continues: “Some centrists think that their programme of nationalisation (e.g., of the mining industry) is in line with the Lassallean idea of concentrating all the energies of the proletariat on a single demand, using it as a lever of revolutionary action that then develops into the struggle for power. However, this theory is false. In the capitalist countries the working class suffers too much; the gnawing hardships and the blows that rain down thick and fast on the workers cannot be fought by fixing all attention on a single demand chosen in a doctrinaire fashion. On the contrary, revolutionary action should be organised around all the demands raised by the masses, and these separate actions will gradually merge into a powerful movement for social revolution.”
Then the resolution states: “The Communist Parties do not put forward minimum programmes which could serve to strengthen and improve the tottering foundations of capitalism. The Communists’ main aim is to destroy the capitalist system. But in order to achieve their aim the Communist Parties must put forward demands expressing the immediate needs of the working class. The Communists must organise mass campaigns to fight for these demands regardless of whether they are compatible with the continuation of the capitalist system. The Communist Parties should be concerned not with the viability and competitive capacity of capitalist industry or the stability of the capitalist economy, but with proletarian poverty, which cannot and must not be endured any longer. If the demands put forward by the Communists correspond to the immediate needs of the broad proletarian masses, and if the masses are convinced that they cannot go on living unless their demands are met, then the struggle around these issues becomes the starting-point of the struggle for power. In place of the minimum programme of the centrists and reformists, the Communist International offers a struggle for the concrete demands of the proletariat which, in their totality, challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship.”
This implies that the Communist should organise mass campaigns for demands (addressed to the capitalists and their government) for measures which, “in their totality, challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship”. But, as the resolution has earlier explained, demanding that a capitalist government “challenge the power of the bourgeoisie” and “organise the proletariat” is a reformist or centrist deception.
A little further on, the resolution states: “The Communist Parties should make certain that the demands they put forward not only correspond to the demands of the broad masses, but also draw the masses into battle and lay the basis for organising them. Concrete slogans that express the economic need of the working masses must lead to the struggle for control of industry – control based not on a plan to organise the economy bureaucratically and under the capitalist system, but on the factory committees and revolutionary trade unions.” Here the resolution switches from urging Communists to build mass campaigns for demands on the capitalists spontaneously raised “by the broad masses” to urging Communists to conduct agitation around “concrete slogans” aimed at mobilising the workers to struggle “for control of industry” by “factory committees and revolutionary trade unions”. Nowhere in the resolution are any examples provided of the “demands” or “concrete slogans” it proposed the Communists campaign for.
At the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in November 1922, the Russian delegation (consisting of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek and Bukharin) issued a statement that seemed to equate “transitional demands” and “transitional slogans”. It declared: “The dispute over how the transitional demands should be formulated and in which section of the program they should be included has awakened a completely erroneous impression that there exists a principled difference. In light of this, the Russian delegation unanimously confirms that the drawing up of transitional slogans in the programs of the national sections and their general formulation and theoretical motivation in the general section of the program cannot be interpreted as opportunism.”8
This blurring of the distinction between demands and slogans is evident in Trotsky’s approach to drawing up a “transitional program”. In his 1934 article “Whither France?”, Trotsky wrote: “The struggle for power must begin with the fundamental idea that if opposition to further aggravation of the situation of the masses under capitalism is still possible, no real improvement of their situation is conceivable without a revolutionary invasion of the right of capitalist property. The political campaign of the united front must base itself upon a well-elaborated transition program, i.e., on a system of measures which with a workers’ and peasants’ government can assure the transition from capitalism to socialism.” But a few sentences later he refers to this as a “program of transitional demands”.9
In Trotsky’s 1938 Transitional Program, he states that “It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.” But when he came to present what might be thought of as concrete examples of these “demands” he referred to them as both “demands” (presumably to be addressed to the capitalists or their government) and as “slogans” aimed at uniting and mobilising the workers to “challenge the power of the bourgeoisie” as though they were the same thing. Thus he wrote: “The slogan of soviets … crowns the program of transitional demands.”10 Only a complete centrist cretin however would think that the creation of soviets is a demand to be addressed by workers to the capitalist rulers. Of course, Trotsky was not a centrist (after he was won over to Bolshevism in 1917), but his description of “transitional slogans” (addressed to the masses and aimed at mobilising them for a struggle for power) as “transitional demands” has opened the way for opportunists moving away from revolutionary socialism to give their left reformism a pseudo-revolutionary cover.
Revolutionary socialists can formulate a set of transitional measures to be implemented by a working people’s government (as Marx and Engels did in the Communist Manifesto, and as Lenin did in 1917), but this is not a program of demands to be addressed to the capitalists. Similarly, we can formulate “transitional slogans” to be used in an acute revolutionary crisis as the basis for agitation to mobilise the working masses to “challenge the power of the bourgeoisie”, but these will not be demands to be addressed to the capitalist rulers. The demands that we advocate working people address to the capitalist rulers are demands for concessions (reforms) from them that if realised will improve the working people’s living standards and working conditions. They do not in and of themselves “challenge the power of the capitalists to control the lives of working people and the wealth they create”. Only mass struggles by the working people themselves consciously aimed at the conquest of power and the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist political and economic system can do that.
Clarification of a correct revolutionary approach to transitional measures, transitional slogans and socalled transitional demands, in my opinion, is an important task for our party in reviewing the provisional program for possible amendments. As I said at the beginning of this report, the concrete motion arising out this report is that the NC commission’s the NE secretariat to review the provisional constitution and provisional program for possible amendments (with political motivation) to be presented for the PCD and for vote at the congress.
1. Available at <http://www.angelfire.com/pr/red/usswp/a_trend_in_the_wrong_direction.htm>.
2. See “Write On: Letters to the Editor”, GLW #787.
3. Lenin, (“Nationalisation of the Banks” in) “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It”, Collected Works Vol. 25 (available at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/ichtci/index.htm>).
4. Lenin, “Letters From Afar; Fifth Letter: The Tasks Involved in Building the Revolutionary Proletarian State”, CW Vol. 23 (available at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/lfafar/fifth.htm#v23pp64h-340>
5. Lenin, (“Can We Go Forward If We Fear to Advance Towards Socialism” in) “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It”.
6. Quoted in August Thalheimer, “Strategy and Tactics of the Communist International: What are Transitional Slogans?” (available at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/thalheimer/works/strategy.htm>.
8. Quoted from Protokoll des Vierten Kongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale (1923), p. 542, in Ernest Mandel, The Leninist Theory of Organisation (available at <http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article472).
9. Trotsky, “Whither France?” (available at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch00.htm>.
10. Trotsky, The Transitional Program (available at <http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/index.htm#contents>).
Appendix: A ‘transitional program’ without ‘transitional demands’
Below is the final section of the resolution on “The Communist International and the Red International of Labour Unions” adopted by the Third Congress of the Comintern in July 1921. It provided a concrete “Program of Action” to guide the work of the Communist-led trade unions in the capitalist countries, grouped together in the RILU (Profintern). It gives an example of a “transitional program” (a program that aims to take the mass of workers from their daily struggles to defend their jobs, wages and working conditions to the level of class-consciousness and organisation needed to achieve the proletarian revolution) without advocating any “transitional demands”. All of the points contained in the Comintern resolution’s “Program of Action” were further elaborated in a pamphlet written in August-October 1921 by Russian Communist Party central committee member Abram Lozovsky, who was also general secretary of the RILU. This pamphlet is available at
<http://www.marxists.org/archive/lozovsky/1921/index.htm> – Doug Lorimer
Program of Action
1 The acute world economic crisis, the catastrophic fall of wholesale prices, the overproduction of goods coupled with their actual scarcity, the aggressive anti-working-class policy pursued by the bourgeoisie, which aims at lowering wages and throwing the workers back decades – all this has led to discontent among the masses on the one hand and to the bankruptcy of the old trade unions and their methods of struggle on the other. The revolutionary, class-conscious trade unions the world over are confronted with new tasks. In this period of capitalist disintegration new forms of economic struggle have to be adopted and the trade unions have to pursue an aggressive economic policy in order to counter the capitalist attack and go over to the offensive.
2 The main tactic of the trade unions has to be the direct action of the revolutionary masses and their organisations against the capitalist system. The gains the workers make are in direct proportion to the degree of direct action taken and of revolutionary pressure exerted by the masses. By direct action is meant all forms of direct pressure on the employers and the state – boycotts, strikes, street demonstrations, the seizure of factories, armed insurrection and other revolutionary activities which unite the working class in the struggle for socialism. The aim of the revolutionary class trade unions is therefore to make direct action an instrument in the education and military training of the working masses for the social revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
3 The most recent years of struggle have shown especially clearly the weakness of the trade-union organisations. The fact that workers in the same enterprise belong to several different unions reduces their ability to struggle. An unremitting fight therefore has to be fought to restructure the unions so that each union represents a whole branch of industry instead of a single trade. “Only one union in a factory” – this is the organisational slogan. The fusion of unions should be carried out in a revolutionary way – the question should be discussed directly by the members of the unions at the factories and subsequently by district and regional conferences and national congresses.
4 Each factory must become a stronghold of the revolution. The traditional forms of contact between rank-and-file members of the unions (through dues collectors, representatives, delegates) must be superseded by the formation of factory committees. All workers, whatever their political convictions, should participate in the election of the factory committees. RILU supporters should strive to involve all the workers of the factory in the elections of their representative body. Any attempt to elect exclusively like-minded comrades to the factory committees, thus excluding the broad masses who remain outside the Party, should be sharply condemned. This would be a Party cell rather than a factory committee. The revolutionary workers must influence the general meeting and the factory committee through the Party cells, the committees of action and the work of their rank-and-file members.
5 The first question which needs to be put before the workers and the factory committees is the issue of maintenance money that employers should pay workers made redundant. In no circumstance should factory owners be allowed to throw workers out onto the streets without bearing any of the consequences. They ought to pay full redundancy pay. The unemployed and, to an even greater extent, the employed workers should be organised around this question. They should be shown that the problem of unemployment cannot be solved as long as capitalist relations exist and that the best method of beating unemployment is to fight for social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
6 At the present time the closure of factories and the reduction of the working day are two of the most important weapons used by the bourgeoisie to force the workers to accept lower wages, longer hours and the ending of factory agreements. The lock-out is increasingly becoming the form of ‘direct action’ used by the organised employers against the organised working masses. The unions must fight the closure of factories and demand that the workers have the right to investigate the reasons behind the closure. Special control commissions to deal with raw materials, fuel and orders must be established to carry out on-the-spot checks of the raw materials in stock, the materials essential to production and the bank balance of the factory or institution.
Specially elected control committees must undertake a thorough investigation of financial relations between the concern in question and other concerns – this raises in a practical way the need to open the books.
7 Factory occupations and work-ins are also forms of struggle against the mass closure of factories and wage cuts. In view of the prevailing lack of consumer goods, it is particularly important that production be maintained and unions should not permit the deliberate closure of factories. Other methods of putting pressure on capital can and must be used, in accordance with local conditions, the industrial and political situation, and the intensity of the social struggle. The administration of factories occupied by workers should be placed in the hands of factory committees and union representatives specially picked for the purpose.
8 The economic struggle should be fought around the slogan of raising wages and working conditions far above pre-war levels. Attempts to reintroduce pre-war working conditions must be resisted in a determined and revolutionary manner. The working class must be compensated for the privations of war-time by an increase in wages and an improvement in labour conditions. Capitalist arguments about foreign competition should always be disregarded: the revolutionary trade unions must approach the question of wages and labour conditions from the standpoint of the protection and the welfare of the labour force and not from the standpoint of competition between the exploiters of different nations.
9 If capitalist policy, as a result of the economic crisis, is leading to wage cuts, the revolutionary trade unions should make sure that their forces are not divided by wages being lowered first in one factory then in another. The workers in the socially useful branches of the economy (miners, railway workers, electricity and gas workers) must struggle from the start so that the resistance to the capitalist attack affects the key centres of the country’s economic life. All types of resistance, from guerrilla actions to general national strikes of individual basic industries, can be used.
10 The trade unions must consider in practical terms the question of preparing and organising industrial strike action in particular industries on an international scale. The temporary standstill on an international scale of transport or coal-mining is a powerful weapon against the reactionary intentions of the bourgeoisie. The trade unions must follow world events closely in order to choose the most appropriate moment for economic struggle. They must not for a moment forget that international action of any kind is only possible with the formation of international trade unions that are genuinely revolutionary and have nothing in common with the scab Amsterdam International.
11 The revolutionary movement must strongly criticise the absolute faith in the value of collective agreements preached by opportunists everywhere. The collective agreement is nothing more than an armistice. The owners always violate these agreements at the earliest opportunity. This religious attitude towards collective agreements is evidence that bourgeois ideology is firmly rooted in the minds of the leaders of the working class. Revolutionary trade unions must not reject collective agreements, but they must understand that their value is limited, and must be prepared to break the agreements when this benefits the working class.
12 The struggle of the workers’ organisations against the individual employer or groups of employers should, while adapting itself to national and local conditions, also draw on all the experience acquired in previous struggles for working-class emancipation. Every important strike, for example, needs to be thoroughly prepared. Furthermore, from the outset the workers must form special groups to fight the strike-breakers and combat the provocative action of the various kinds of right-wing organisation which are encouraged by the bourgeois governments. The Fascists in Italy, the German technical emergency relief, the civilian organisations in France and Britain whose membership is composed of former officers and N.C.O.s – all these organisations have as their object the destruction and suppression of all working-class activity, not only by providing scab labour, but by smashing the working-class organisations and getting rid of their leaders. In such situations the organisation of special strike militias and special self-defence groups is a matter of life and death.
13 These defence organisations should not only resist the factory owners and the strike-breaking organisations – they should take the initiative in stopping the dispatch of goods to and from the factory where the strike is in progress. The transport workers’ union should play a particularly prominent role in such activity: it is its responsibility to hold up goods in transit, which can only be done, however, with the full support of all the workers in the area.
14 In the coming period the entire economic struggle of the working class must be conducted around the slogan of workers’ control over production. The workers should fight for the immediate introduction of workers’ control and not wait for the government and the ruling classes to think up some alternative. An uncompromising struggle has to be waged against all attempts by the ruling classes and the reformists to create intermediary labour associations and control commissions. Only when strict control over production is introduced can results be achieved. The revolutionary trade unions must resolutely fight against the way the leaders of the traditional unions, aided and abetted by the ruling class, use the idea of ‘nationalisation’ to blackmail and swindle the workers. These gentlemen talk about peaceful socialisation only to divert the workers from revolutionary activity and social revolution.
15 Ideas of profit-sharing are put forward in order to play on the petty-bourgeois aspirations of the workers, diverting their attention from their long-term goals. Profit-sharing means that workers receive an insignificant part of the surplus value they produce, and the idea should therefore be subjected to harsh and rigorous criticism. “Not profit-sharing, but an end to capitalist profit” should be the slogan of the revolutionary unions.
16 In order to reduce or break the fighting power of the working class, the bourgeois states have resorted, under the pretence of protecting vital industries, to the temporary militarisation of industrial factories and whole branches of industry. Compulsory arbitration and conciliation commissions have been introduced, allegedly to prevent economic crises, but in actual fact to defend capital. In the interests of capital, direct taxation has been introduced, which places the burden of the war expenditure entirely on the shoulders of the workers and turns the employer into a tax-collector. The trade unions must put up a fierce fight against these state measures that serve only the interests of the capitalist class.
17 When they struggle for better labour conditions and living standards for the masses and the introduction of workers’ control, the Red unions should remember that these problems cannot be lastingly settled within the framework of capitalist relations. As the revolutionary trade unions win concessions from the ruling classes, step by step, forcing them to pass social legislation, they must make it clear to the working masses that only the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat can solve the social question. They must use every action, every local strike, every conflict, however minor, to argue their point. They must draw the lessons from the experience of struggle, raising the consciousness of the rank and file and preparing the workers for the time when it will be necessary and possible to achieve the social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
18 Every economic struggle is a political struggle, i.e., a struggle that concerns the class as a whole. However great working-class participation, the struggle can only be revolutionary and bring the proletariat maximum benefit if the revolutionary trade unions work in a close and unified fashion with the Communist Party of the country in question. The theory and practice of dividing the working-class struggle into two independent halves is extremely harmful, particularly in the present revolutionary situation. Every action requires the greatest possible concentration of forces, which can only be achieved if the working class, and all its Communist and revolutionary elements, give their utmost to the revolutionary struggle. If the Communist Parties and the revolutionary class-conscious trade unions work separately, their action is doomed to failure and defeat. It is for this reason that unity of action and close contact between the Communist Parties and the trade unions are prerequisites for success in the struggle against capitalism.